It turns out, as The Independent reports, that the order to US airmen to stay out of London was issued last Thursday, on the very day that the bombs had been exploded.
On Thursday, the US servicemen and women were told not to go within the M25 until further notice, except on official business.The statement of the military spokesman, which was quoted by the BBC, was given on Friday, the day after the bombs. The spokesman also said that he did not know how long the order would be in place, but that “"I can't see it being a permanent thing."
None of this was reported by the BBC, and of course it makes all the difference. With bombs going off in London and confusion over exactly what’s going on, it would have made perfect sense to issue an order to steer clear of the area. It also puts the military’s desire to allow the authorities to “do their job” into a more sensible perspective. By ignoring all of this and reporting on it for the first time 4 days after the actual order, the BBC leaves its readers with the impression that the order came as late as yesterday, and as a considered policy in the wake of the attacks, rather than as an immediate and momentary response.
The order, which was reportedly taken at a local level, is currently being “urgently reviewed”, and I suspect it will be removed by the end of the day. That probably should have happened sooner, and should not have come as the result of adverse publicity. But that does not excuse the BBC for presenting the story in such a misleading way. It is indicative of how bad things are at the BBC when the likes of The Independent are offering up a more accurate look at a story which reflects negatively on the US.
The BBC, by the way, has totally changed its article (without pointing out the edits), now incorporating the fact that the order is being reviewed. It still does not tell us that the order came last Thursday on the day of the attacks, although it does include speculation from a conservative spokesman who “suspects” that is the case.
UPDATE: Contrary to what I say above, the Beeb's original story did have one indication of the timing of the order, referring to "The order, enforced on Friday, ..."